Sharing Music Therapy Beyond the Borders of Europe

31st July 2022

EMTC connects music therapists across Europe, but we are always interested to hear about connections with countries in other continents. Elizabeth Coombes recently returned from a trip to Jordan where she was part of a team sharing ways  music can be used therapeutically with musicians, music teachers, counsellors and others. Once she had had a chance to unpack, we sent her some questions about her trip:

Tell us about the trip you have just been on to Jordan:

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to Jordan at the end of June 2022 with another UK music therapist, Clare Reynolds , as part of the Distance Learning Programme devised by Music as Therapy International (Music as Therapy – We believe in the power of music to transform lives). This programme trains musicians and those who work with young disabled children in how to use music therapeutically in small groups.  The training consists of  7 monthly tutorials delivered online with written assignments, as well as an intensive training of applied work where music-making and therapeutic theory is the focus. There is then a supervised practical assignment where trainees deliver 8 sessions to a small group of children. Clare and I were tasked with delivering the weekend session, and I’ll also be providing supervision for the practical work once that has begun.  

The trip was short but very sweet.  Our hosts were so welcoming and supportive.  While it was certainly a whirlwind visit,  the engagement from trainees was amazing.  As is always the case with such trainings, we learnt a lot ourselves from the questions that were posed by trainees.

Clare Reynolds, Fabienne Van Eck of Musicians Without Borders and Rita Haddadin of Caritas Jordan.

Tell us about your local partners and the organisations or institutions they represent:

Music as Therapy International is working in partnership with Musicians Without Borders (MWB) and Caritas Jordan for this project. Music as Therapy International has been working for over 25 years in the arena of interactive music making and music as therapy skill-sharing both in the UK and abroad. There has been a partnership with MWB in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 2015, but this is the first partnership with Caritas Jordan.  MWB uses music projects to connect communities, bridge divides and  provide alternative ways of working in conflict situations. Their new connection in Jordan is developing community music leadership programmes alongside this training using music as therapy.  Caritas Jordan is a charitable organisation that develops programmes for refugees and Jordanians in the region. Many of these progammes are psychosocial in nature, with Caritas strongly believing in the power of creativity and specifically music to engage and support those in their care.

What were the highlights of the training?

It was a real joy to work with such a wonderful group of people who are so committed to using music in this work.  Some of the trainees were accomplished musicians while others were counsellors or physical therapists.  This mixture of pre-existing knowledge meant that we had some very lively debates and discussions as we explored  film of music therapy to illustrate the underpinning theories we explored.  These included Colwyn Trevarthen’s Communicative Musicality. We also thought about how strong structures to music as therapy sessions might enable the children to feel safe enough to work on the identified goals and blossom creatively in these sessions.

Were there any times you had to think on your feet and adapt your plans?

Although we had a timetable and content that had to be delivered in line with the course requirements, sometimes our discussions took us in a slightly different direction so in true music therapy style, we had to improvise.  Working in a pair was so useful at these moments, as Clare and I were able to role play musically what we meant. Using non-verbal demonstrations in this applied training further embedded the importance of letting the music do the talking. In addition to this, part of the first running of this project in Jordan was to understand what cultural adaptations might need to be made to the programme. We hope the feedback we gave to Music as Therapy International will prove useful in this respect.

What is your strongest personal impression or memory from the trip?

The thoughtfulness and passion of the trainees really shines through for me.  They were excited to learn and willing to put themselves out there. They also showed great dedication to their work, much of which is challenging.  Caritas reaches over 1000 children per month in Jordan with a wide range of activities.  We hope that this training will enable the organisation to develop  new ways of working to emerge to further support disabled children.

What advice would you give to other European Music Therapists considering such work?

Being supported by experienced organisations such as  Music as Therapy International is very important.  It means that the work is likely to be sustainable, and underpinned by years of experience in international development. Also, working in a pair, where you can discuss and reframe the work you have planned where needed is so valuable to making the work culturally relevant and appropriate. 

Thank you Liz, for sharing your work with us!

Dr Elizabeth Coombes is a UK-based music therapist who is also the Course Leader of the MA Music Therapy at the University of South Wales. She is interested in the identity of the C21st music therapist as well as neonatal MT, receptive music therapy and training other professionals in the therapeutic use of music. She can be contacted at

Music as Therapy International has permission from all trainees and partners for photos to be used.